Pope Francis has released Laudate Deum, ‘Praise God’, to ‘clarify and complete’ what he started in 2015 with his letter Laudato si on how we care for our common home. This is not just a papal document for Catholics but a heartfelt letter with an urgent message addressed to all people of good will, of whatever Christian denomination, of whatever faith or none. The letter was released on the Feast of St Francis of Assisi, the great medieval reformer whose spirituality saw our relationship with God in the simplicity and poverty of our harmony with the wider creation. This return to seeing ourselves in our nothingness in a vast universe with all its intricate connections seems to be at the heart of Pope Francis’ call to us today who have been contaminated by industrialisation, scientific progress, and the exaltation of the autonomy of the self.
As Churches Together this is an important message to hear as we all have a common belief in the goodness of all creation and of the human being made in the image of God as a special yet humble part of that creation. We have a common belief that we turn away from the good, become out of harmony with creation and with the Creator, and need to experience God’s mercy, call to conversion, and call to fulfilment as God’s image on earth. However we understand sin and grace, justification, and sanctification, we hear a common call to be one with the creation God has called us to be in harmony with and to be faithful stewards of.
So Pope Francis’ call invites us to action together as churches. Francis asks each of us to contribute by efforts ‘to reduce pollution and waste, to consume with prudence’ and thereby help ‘to create a new culture… for when human beings claim to take God’s place they become their own worst enemies’. The climate crisis is indeed a ‘global societal issue’ where the impact and consequences are often felt by the world’s poorest people.
As such we are called as Christians together to educate ourselves and our children on what it means to be a good steward of creation, of the goods God has given us. This is not an optional extra but an integral part of our faith and of how we understand and worship our Creator God. It is an integral part too of the mission of the Christian disciple. It is an integral part of our understanding of the nature of sin and Christian ethics. It is an integral part of our understanding of how the Church in the midst of the world plays a part in global, national and local action and advocacy for the poorest, for the common good, for the future of God’s creation.
Fr Dominic Robinson, SJ, is Vice Chair of the Society for Ecumenical Studies and member of the Department of Dialogue and Unity Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales, Parish Priest at Farm Street Church, London, Lecturer in Theology at St Mary’s University, and Chair, Justice & Peace Commission, Diocese of Westminster.
Photo credit: Diocese of Westminster